What a week for Distell, the elephant in the national tasting room. On Monday CEO Jan Scannell drops R2.2 billion on Scotch. On Tuesday, Business Day calls them a “third world drinks company” and today they refocus the annual Nederburg Auction, biggest event on the wine calendar for four decades. Volumes of wines on offer crash 60% from 28,000 litres to 12,000 with the number of offerings from host Nederburg, SA’s largest premium lifestyle brand, nearly halve from 27 to 15. Confirming a marketing refocus which now concentrates on MasterChefSA and saturation coverage in airports. The event will still be held over two days (6 and 7 September) so proceedings should be less frenetic.
Initials: LDR means Last Day to Register in financial circles and while Jannie Mouton waits eagerly for the Distell results expected this morning, culinary superstar Luke Dale Roberts and assorted sous-chefs with 1950s matinee idol looks and paler-than-a-vampire maître d’s were out in force last night at Bizerca Bistro for the Alto Top Ten Places to Eat In Cape Town party. Served gazpacho and fishcakes by diminutive angels paid R22 a shift plus a Pokémon card, this was the party to have been at last night, as kitchen lights dimmed all over town as chefs took their toques off at Heritage Square.
When you bear more than a passing resemblance to the heir to the British throne, as Tulbagh bubbly royalty Luke Krone (below) does, hosting an annual Summer Elegance Festival on the family farm is a no-brainer. This year, prompted by Chinese dissident artist Ai WeiWei on the cover of The New Statesman magazine perhaps, Luke has contracted the dim sum duo of Mynhardt Joubert and Eugene Nortje to offer dim sum with a twist at this year’s Festival on Twee Jonge Gezellen on December 8; eight being the most auspicious number on the Chinese calendar. The twist will be naked dim sum with recipes tweaked to account for summer conditions plus the abundance of bare flesh sipping fizz on the day.
Cape Wine 2012 kicked off with a geselige Ghoema-Ghoema sokkie (relaxed cocktail party) at the Cape Town Breakwater this evening. Gangnam-style dancers in Roland Peens white hats and minors dressed as miners threw mini-breakdance shapes as invited guests crowded the Pinot Noir stand while the Pinotage precinct was deserted, confirming the height of the hill the local varietal has to climb.
According to The Telegraph, the Swartland “all started in the late Nineties when Charles Back, already the owner of an estate in Paarl, bought a small farm near Malmesbury, put in a winemaker called Eben Sadie, and began making wines under the Spice Route label.” Well Mr. Sadie has since moved on to become the Brad Pitt of bush vines and his place in the affections of Chas has been taken by another Eben, Eben Uys (below), the spitting image of Prince Harry with his clothes on.
Yesterday’s Elsenburg Auction to send the final year winemaking class to France as a cure for cellar palate was saved from poverty almost single handedly by Mbazima Shilowa (below) who opened his capacious wallet and paid up for lots of lots. If politics doesn’t work out for Mbazima, the wine industry should welcome this giant with open arms. Did anyone say head of WOSA?
While the Cape gears up for Jörg Pfützner’s Big Bottle boogaloo at the Cellars Hohenort on Friday night, Mr. Meat aka Alan Pick has stolen a march by hosting a lunchtime auction tomorrow to send the final year of Elsenberg wine making students to France to see what all the fuss is around French vin.
The auction catalogue (below) is stellar and arguably the best ever offered in SA this millennium. So to all those banksters who missed out on Quoin Rock and hipsters not yet retired to Hermanus, hurry to the Butcher’s Shop & Grill tomorrow lunchtime for some Wagu steaks and a chance at vinous immortality and the best wine south of Beaune.
As SA wine becomes increasingly and perhaps unavoidably politicized, its worth considering pressures on that silent constituency: the winemakers. At a splendid lunch at Societi Bistro yesterday of pork neck and brocolli soup with final year Elsenburg student Adriaan van Ellewee (below) to discuss August’s Wagu & Wine fundraising lunch and auction at Alan Pick’s The Butcher’s Shop & Grill, the state of the national cellar came up for discussion. Adriaan and his colleagues are resucitating the annual Elsenburg Auction, last held in 2005, to raise funds to send 22 students to France for an end-of-year study tour. A worthy cause, if ever there was one, if SA wine is serious about breaking out of the “cellar palate” death spiral to start focusing on wine styles the rest of the world is buying.
Judging done at the Concours Mondial in Guimaraes, we adjourned to the Jumbo supermarket downtown (owned by the French chain Auchan) to checkout the wine offering. Next to the Sancerre and Penfolds was the Astronaut Pinotage 2010 from the Swartland, arguably the most happening appellation in SA.
Made from grapes grown on dryland old bush-vines on Lemoenfontein, it is proof that you don’t need the magic dust of an Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst or Chris Mullineux to get a listing in the cradle of Portuguese civilization. Good value (€3.99) needs no bush. Or in this case, bush-vine.
Disclosure: the author owns Lemoenfontein
Pressing questions (press shown below) are being raised as to how the Swartland came to dominate yesterday’s UCT Top 20 SA wineries poll. First placed Boekenhoutskloof mackintosh-hillhouse-chair Marc Kent, second placed baby Jesus of SA wine Eben Sadie and charming Chris and beautiful Andrea Mullineux in tenth position are all leading lights in the annual Swartland Revolution. An event that poll organizer Tim James is involved with.
Not that any impropriety is implied. After all, that Marc was first past the post is to be expected, as Boekenhoutskloof is Winery of the Year in the 2012 Platter sighted wine guide. But even with ten 2011 Platter pundits voting plus editor Phil, the 2011 Platter Winery of the Year, Nederburg, could not make the Top 20. A fantastic result and quite frankly, unbelievable as Nederburg had three five star stunners in 2012 and a record breaking five in 2011. Nederburg cellarmaster and TV star Razvan Macici must be wondering what you have to do to get into the Top 20! Surely the last shred of credibility at Platter has been lost by this result. Or is the poll perhaps a fix?